May 17, 2017
On March 29, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Turner v. United States, which was consolidated with Overton v. United States. In 1984, the body of Catherine Fuller was discovered in an alley after she had been beaten and raped. Sufficient physical evidence to identify the perpetrators was not recovered, and the medical examiner could not determine the number of attackers involved. Thirteen teenagers were initially indicted for being involved in a group effort to originally rob and subsequently assault and kill her. Two of them, Harry Bennett and Calvin Alston, pled guilty and agreed to testify, but the details in their accounts differed. Turner and nine other defendants were found guilty by a jury, and their convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. Nearly 25 years later, Turner and several of the other original defendants moved to have their sentences vacated, claiming that they had not received fair trials because the government had withheld exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland. They also argued that newly discovered evidence, including the recantations of Bennett and Alston, established that they were actually innocent of the crime. The trial court denied the motion, and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court held that the defendants had not shown a reasonable probability that the outcome of their trials would have been different with the new evidence.
The question now before the Supreme Court is whether the petitioners' convictions must be set aside under Brady v. Maryland.
To discuss the case, we have Brian Lichter, who is Associate at Latham & Watkins.